RKO producer Val Lewton seemed to thrive upon taking the most lurid film titles and coming up with pocket-edition works of art. Saddled with the studio-dictated title I Walked With a Zombie, Lewton, together with scripters Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray, concocted a West Indies variation on Jane Eyre. Trained nurse (Frances Dee) travels to the tropics to care for Christine Gordon, the wife of seemingly abusive Tom Conway. At first, Dee merely believes her patient to be comatose. But as the drums throb and the natives behave restlessly, Dee tries to bring her patient back to life by jungle magic. Conway is racked with guilt, believing himself responsible for his wife's condition; his guilt is stoked by Conway's drunken brother James Ellison, who has always loved Gordon. Utilizing very limited sets and only a handful of extras, director Jacques Tourneur manages to evoke an impression of an expansive tropical island populated at every turn by voodoo worshippers. Many of the sequences, notably Frances Dee's first languid stroll into the midst of the native ceremonies, have an eerie dream-like quality that pervades even the most worn-out, badly processed TV prints of I Walked With Zombie.
by Hal Erickson synopsis